Bamboozled: Getting to the foggy bottom of Benghazi

John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS — Speaking before delegates at last Autumn’s General Assembly, President Barack Obama eloquently stated “I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.” The President passionately described the unfailing commitment, selfless sacrifice and sense of duty of the fallen Ambassador Chris Stevens who along with three other Americans was killed in a terrorist attack in the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya weeks before.

Sadly Obama’s paeans to the fallen Ambassador may not have been necessary had his State Department been properly prepared for a coordinated terrorist attack on the Consulate compound on September 11th.

U.S. Foreign Service officer Gregory Hicks.
U.S. Foreign Service officer Gregory Hicks.

Think of the setting for a moment. Benghazi, a center of rebellion against the dictator Gadhafi, and an enduring hotbed of Islamic extremism to the present day. So on September 11th , a singularly significant day for Al Qaida, would it not be logical to have additional security at American diplomatic facilities throughout the Middle East?

But alas, there was no extra security in Benghazi on that fateful day (yet there was here at the UN and in New York City) largely because Hillary Clinton’s State Department had turned down repeated requests for extra protection in the weeks leading up to the attack. No Marines were stationed at the Consulate despite the exposed nature of the legation.

The shameful excuse for the violence initially was a stupid and fourth rate anti-Muslim video on You Tube. The Mid-East was in flames over this video and allegedly a “spontaneous crowd appeared” and decided to trash the Consulate. Other mobs attacked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Egypt and pulled down the American flag, replacing it briefly with the black banner of Al Qaida.

In searingly stunning testimony before a Congressional committee on the Benghazi debacle, veteran U.S. Foreign Service officer Gregory Hicks, the number two American diplomat in Libya after the murdered Ambassador, clearly outlined the sanguinary sequence of events which led to the death of four Americans.

As Deputy Chief of Mission, a ranking role in the State Department and often the “hands on player” in many smaller embassies worldwide, Gregory Hicks is a man who can be counted on for sober assessment, poignant analysis and calm reaction.

Days after the attack U.S. UN Ambassador Susan Rice told national TV programs that the attack appeared to be spontaneous and in reaction to the disputed video.

DCM Hicks said he was “stunned” by Rice’s comments that the attack was spontaneous. A “spontaneous mob” just coincidentally happened to have the necessary weapons, training, and expertise for an assault on a Consulate?

“My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed” was Hicks reaction to the Rice TV statement. Despite being the ranking American on the ground in Libya, Hicks was not consulted before Rice recited her pedantic “talking points” concerning the attack. Poor coordination, but then the Obama team was in election mode, which did not want a terrorist attack on September 11th of all days, to disrupt the political narrative.

During emotional testimony DCM Hicks recalls, a call from the beleaguered envoy Chris Stevens, “Greg, we’re under attack,” before the line went dead.

An earlier State Department review discovered that the security plan for Benghazi was “inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”

Despite Benghazi being a sitting duck on September 11th , the bigger problem I feel deals with why no U.S. military rescue came during the attack which lasted in excess of seven hours? We are not talking about a quick “hit and run” by militants but a sustained assault on a compound which was only hindered by a few U.S. special forces men who were subsequently killed too.

Though a small Special Forces detachment was at the Embassy in Tripoli, American air assets would have been at the Aviano Air Base in Italy; two F-16 squadrons a few hours flight down the boot of Italy and straight into coastal Benghazi. And why were not American special operations teams on standby in Italy and Turkey for precisely such a Mid-East contingency as the emotive September 11th date approached?

DCM Hicks was shocked by the lack of any U.S. military response during the nighttime assault.

Shockingly despite ongoing attack over a period of seven hours, American forces had a “stand down” order not to intervene!! Who gave such a fateful order?

Ambassador Chris Stevens, in President Obama’s words before the UN “embodied the best of America…the attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America.”

Exactly so, and we owe it to the selfless Foreign Service and brave military personnel to get to the foggy bottom of the Benghazi attack.

John J. Metzler is a U.N. correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He writes weekly for WorldTribune.com.

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